A/k/a Tommy Chong (2006)
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Instead, the film shed alarming light on how justice is administered today. It disturbed me how various powerful people decided bringing down Tommy would add celebrity to their resume, and how much of a ruse they used to get him. I didn't necessarily question the legality of the actions (police can do things like send minors into bars to solicit alcohol or cigarettes) but rather the ideology and zealousness behind it. Is this consistent with how the majority of Americans feel we should act?
There is a great biographical aspect to the film that is smartly interwoven with present day events. It helped set context and added some background color to the names Cheech and Chong. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, and this film was a cool glimpse into where our culture has been and how it has evolved.
The manner in which Chong was targeted and the resources spent on his arrest and prosecution were both somewhat shocking. Bill Maher said it best: "Don't you feel safer knowing the Tommy Chong is in prison?"
Whether the viewer is a relic of the 70's or just interested in constitutional rights, (these people actually do exist) this movie is definitely worth seeing.
It's not really 'polished' style-wise, and it is mostly filmed with digital cameras at times capturing even the mundane moments of Chong days before going off to prison. Scenes like this usually wouldn't be in some documentaries, even as this is very independently made and wont be seen by as many people as other documentaries coming out this year. But in Chong's own testimonies, both of the facts and then how he puts it on in recent stand-up footage, and then through the legal and personal ramifications of the case, there's a lot to ponder and feel from the material. There's sadness, there's humor, there's outrage, and even moments of clarity and catharsis- Chong's now, apparently, been made a martyr through this happening, more popular and more counter-culture than ever in his late sixties. It's imperfect, but it has a crucial topic that is made all the more human by who is put at the center of "operation pipe dreams".
Of all the people indicted and prosecuted in the sting, with only one or two priors, Chong was the only one to receive a jail sentence...nine months in minimum security at Taft, California. Supposedly the harsh punishment was because Tommy making fun of the government's anti-drug efforts in the movie UP IN SMOKE. Chong now jokes about the only Weapons of Mass Destruction that the Bush Administration has every found is his bongs.
Lesson: it might not be good in the long run to joke about DEA, IRS, CIA or Homeland Security. Innocent or not...they can do anything they want to do.
Archive footage with pro and con comment include: Paul Moyer, Jay Leno, Bill Maher,George Thorogood, Ronald Reagan, Peter Coyote, Lou Adler, Cheech Marin, Alan M. Dershowitz and George W. Bush.